Gwen Petersen
Big Timber, Mont.

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October 28, 2013
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Gwen Petersen: In a Sow's Ear 10-28-13

Tillie’s boys are grown. Tillie (not her real name of course) is a ranch woman and mother of three boys. Tillie is also blessed with a bubbling sense of fun. Which is to say, her sons had no chance to avoid being teased or dodge a leg-pulling as they grew up. All three are close in age so theirs was a merry — to say the least — childhood.

Merry mostly, except for the time Tillie and offspring went shopping in the Ranch Supply Store. Mom and kids had been having a fine time on the drive to the store telling jokes and generally cracking one another up. Tillie had a shopping list: sweet feed, dogfood, trace-mineral salt blocks, new muck boots, chore gloves — the list was long, ending with a notation from husband: Shipping on Saturday. Buy a new cattle prod.

Tillie instructed the boys (dubbed The Gleesome Threesome) to stick close. The store was large and she didn’t want to waste time hunting A.W.O.L. children. Number One son took that as a challenge and began darting behind shelves, ducking under counters, and peeking out from behind racks of clothing. Disappearing and reappearing, he’d chortle as only a 12-year-old bent on mischief can do. Then poof, he’d vanish again.

About the ninth time he materialized, Tillie just happened to be passing by a collection of cattle prods standing on end in a barrel. As Number One son, giggling, danced away, Tillie grabbed up a prod and gave chase. Number Two and Number Three sons, also laughing up a storm trailed behind Tillie as she pursued her oldest offspring.

“Stop right now, you little dickens or I’ll goose you!” The threat served only to inspire Number One to laugh harder and ratchet up his can’t-catch-me speed. The game was on. Son ran. Tillie followed, the cattle prod poked forward like a jousting knight’s lance. Number One leaped behind a full-size manikin garbed in jeans, shirt and cowboy hat.

Tillie closed in. Son shot out from behind the manikin and went tearing down an open aisle. Tillie went into overdrive and caught up with Son. “Stop, I said! Stop or I’ll zap you!” Number One tossed a glance over his shoulder, his face a picture of mischievous glee. At which point, Tillie poked Numero Uno with the cattle prod.

With an eerie shriek, Son levitated several inches off the floor before splatting to earth, face down. Rolling over, he screeched, “MOM!”

Tillie, horrified, stared at her firstborn. “Oh, my, oh, gosh, oh, Honey ...!”

At that moment, the other two Sons barreled up behind Tillie.

“Mom?” said Number Two, “Why’d you zap him?”

“Yeah,” said Number Three, “How come?”

“I-I-I ...” stuttered Tillie. “I didn’t mean to! I didn’t think the darned prod was primed and ready to electrify! Why would the store have cattle prods already loaded. Sheesh!”

About then a small crowd of disapproving onlookers congregated. Hurriedly, Tillie stuffed the prod under a pile of jeans displayed on a nearby table. “Come on boys. Hold hands were gettin’ outta here.”

Escaping to the parking lot, Mom and the Gleesome Threesome piled into their pickup. Back at the ranch, Tillie explained to her husband that no, she’d failed to buy a cattle prod because, she fibbed, “The store was temporarily sold out.”

For about a week Tillie walked around in a nervous fog. She feared to answer the phone; she worried that a Child Service official might actually show up and threaten to remove her children from a bonkers mother.

“No problem, Mom,” said Number One son, “I’ll say we were just playing. And I won’t tell anybody about the time you hid under my bed and scared me with a hayhook after we watched that spooky Scissor Hand movie.” ❖

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The Fence Post Updated Oct 24, 2013 10:11AM Published Nov 12, 2013 04:26PM Copyright 2013 The Fence Post. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.